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Tusculum falls 13-10 in double-overtime to UVa-Wise

Tusculum falls 13-10 in double-overtime to UVa-Wise

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Trent Martin booted a 24-yard field goal in the second overtime period to give the University of Virginia-Wise a 13-10 victory over Tusculum College Thursday night at Pioneer Field.

Martin's field goal came after the Cavaliers' Ed Kargbo intercepted the Pioneers' Luke Lancaster on Tusculum's possession in the second overtime period. The game was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation, but each team scored  a touchdown on their possession in the first overtime to send the game to a second extra period.

The game marked the head coaching debuts of Tusculum's Jerry Odom and UVa-Wise's Dane Damron, and it was the defenses that put on a show as the offenses combined for 441 yards and failed to score a touchdown in regulation. Last season, the Pioneers defeated the Cavaliers 47-28 in a game that featured 1,024 yards of total offense and 10 touchdowns.

Tusculum had the ball inside the Virginia-Wise 30-yard line six times during regulation, but scored their only points on a second-quarter field goal by Will Tommie. The Cavalier defense picked off Lancaster four times, including inside the 10-yard line early in the second quarter. Tusculum's defense was not to be outdone, recovering three fumbles and recording six sacks while forcing Virginia-Wise to punt 10 times.

Lancaster finished 9-for-27 for 126 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 25-yard pass to Evan Altizer in the first overtime period after the Cavaliers had taken a 10-3 lead on a 10-yard run by Carlton Griffin in the first possession of overtime. Josh Jackson ran 13 times for 79 yards for the Pioneers, while Isaac Robinson had 26 carries for 63 yards as the Pioneers finished with 176 yards on 50 rushes as a team.

Meanwhile, the Tusculum defense held Virginia-Wise to 39 net yards rushing on 42 carries. Griffith was the leading rusher for the Cavaliers, with 17 carries for 49 yards and a score to go along with four catches for 52 yards. As a team, the Cavaliers accumulated 170 yards through the air with Jacob Cousins the top receiver on five catches for 73 yards.

Tusculum set the tone for the game on the first play from scrimmage, as L'Keith Brown forced a fumble following a catch by Cousins and Jaylynn Kesterson recovered at the Virginia-Wise 33. However, Will Tommie missed a 41-yard field goal attempt to keep the game scoreless.

The Cavaliers had their best drive of the night on their second possession, moving to the Pioneer 5 before back-to-back sacks by Brown and Brandon Williams forced Martin to kick a 31-yard field goal. The kick gave Virginia-Wise a 3-0 lead with 9:27 remaining in the opening quarter.

Following exchanges of punts, the Pioneers used a 54-yard completion from Lancaster to Nick England to move inside the Cavaliers' 30. However, Zachary Blair picked off Lancaster on a tipped pass at his own 22 to turn the Pioneers away.

Tusculum would soon get the ball back as Brown came up with a strip-sack of Virginia-Wise quarterback Brycen Lee, and JT Braydon took the loose ball 29 yards to the Cavalier 16. However, a 12-yard loss on a fumble led to a 46-yard field goal attempt by Tommie that fell short on the first play of the second quarter, keeping the Cavaliers on top 3-0.

The Pioneer defense came through on the Cavaliers' next possession, as Stetson Mayes and Williams stacked up Jabaaru Wright on a fourth-and-1 play to give the Pioneers the ball back at the Wise 39. Five plays later, Tommie drilled a 41-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 with 12:24 remaining in the first half.

Tusculum nearly added to its lead shortly after Virginia-Wise got the ball back, as Kesterson forced Griffith to fumble at his own 31 and Martez Thompkins took the ball 24 yards to the Virginia-Wise 11. However, Jay'Ronn Lovelace picked off Lancaster at his own 5 and returned the ball 48 yards into Pioneer territory.

The Cavaliers moved the ball to the Pioneer 33, but Lee was sacked by Brent Williams on fourth-and-7 and Tusculum had the ball back with 7:28 remaining in the first half. From there, both teams ran out the half by exchanging punts several times as the score remained 3-3 at intermission.

The defenses continued to shine in the third quarter, with another tipped Lancaster pass resulting in an interception for the Cavaliers' Alvin Enahoro on Tusculum's first drive of the second half. Tusculum had the only scoring opportunity of the half, but a 53-yard field goal attempt by Tommie was short midway through the quarter.

Following several more punts, the Pioneers began a drive at their own 48 with 8:43 remaining in the game. Jackson was the workhorse for the Pioneers during the drive, carrying the ball five times for 47 yards including a 33-yard run that brought the Pioneers all the way to the Cavaliers' 14. On second-and-8 at the 12, Lancaster appeared to hit English with the go-ahead touchdown with 4:46 left, but the play was called back due to holding.

A pair of plays for losses left the Pioneers with a 45-yard field goal try with 3:23 to go, but Tommie missed to the left and the score remained deadlocked at 3-3. After yet another punt by the Cavaliers, the Pioneers got the ball back with 3:02 remaining. Tusculum drove down to the Wise 32, aided by a pass-interference penalty on a would-be interception by a Maurice Watkins, but had to settle for a 52-yard field-goal attempt from Tommie that was short and left with 38 seconds to play.

In overtime, the Cavaliers had the ball first and needed just two plays to reach the end zone, as Griffith caught a 15-yard pass from Jeremy Eubank then ran nearly untouched in from 10 yards out for the first touchdown of the game and a 10-3 Wise lead. Not to be denied, the Pioneers tied the game on the very next play as Lancaster found Altizer just inside the right pylon from 25 yards away, and Jose Esparza nailed the extra point to knot the game at 10-10.

Tusculum had possession first in the second overtime, but a sack was followed by an interception by Kargbo which gave the Cavaliers the ball with a chance to win. A 10-yard run by Griffith on third-and-5 brought the Cavaliers inside the 10, and Martin came through three plays later with the winning kick.

England finished the game with four catches for 71 yards for the Pioneers, while Altizer had three receptions for 33 yards and a score. Lorenzo Mitchell and Jordan Barnes each had one catch in the game for Tusculum.

Lee went 13-for-23 for 148 yards for Virginia-Wise before giving way to Eubank late in the fourth quarter. Eubank went 2-for-5 for 22 yards, but led the team on two scoring drives in overtime. In all, six different receivers had at least one grab for the Cavaliers.

Brown had a big game on defense for the Pioneers, setting a school single-game record by forcing three fumbles and finishing with nine tackles (six solo), including two sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for 13 yards in losses. Deres Benn also had nine tackles (five solo) and a sack, along with a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two tackles for loss. Brandon Williams finished the game with eight tackles (three solo), a sack and 2 1/2 tackles for loss for the Pioneers.

For the Cavaliers, Kargbo had 10 tackles (seven solo) while Enahoro had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception. Blair made nine tackles (seven solo) with five tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. Overall, the Cavalier defense limited the Pioneers to 4-for-19 on third downs and no points in the second half despite being on the field for nearly 22 of the 30 minutes in the half.

Both teams' punters were very active in the game, with Tusculum's Hunter Cantrell averaging 41.3 yards on six punts and Virginia-Wise's Trevor Owens averaging 40.6 yards on nine kicks.

Tusculum has now played an overtime game in four of the last five seasons. The Pioneers lost 23-20 at Mars Hill in 2012, beat UNC Pembroke 20-17 in 2014 and lost 55-52 in triple overtime to Lenoir-Rhyne last season. This game was just the second of the Pioneers' six all-time overtime games to require an extra period.

The Pioneers will be on the road on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Virginia State for a 2 p.m. kickoff.

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